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Justice Department labels GOP claim about Uranium One deal a conspiracy theory

Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- A talking point used by some leading Republicans to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe has been labeled a conspiracy theory by Justice Department prosecutors.

Amid Mueller's lengthy and controversial probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, vocal GOP leaders such as Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., pushed an alternative narrative.

The Obama administration, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation might have conspired with Russia, they argued, giving the foreign nation a stake in U.S. uranium production and the Clintons a financial windfall.

It became known as the Uranium One conspiracy and centered on a 2010 deal that allowed the mining division of Russia's nuclear energy agency Rosatom to take a controlling stake in Uranium One, a Canadian company with mining interests in the United States.

Nunes, Meadows, President Donald Trump and other conservative voices had alleged, without evidence, that the deal benefited Hillary Clinton and her family-run Clinton Foundation. Clinton looked the other way and did not oppose the deal, they alleged, because of contributions made to the foundation.

The deal was subjected to national security review and was unopposed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. That multi-agency panel typically provides an annual report that gives the number of deals it has reviewed but provides few details.

 

The Uranium One conspiracy theory is likely to crop back up as a trial is set to begin this month in Maryland for Mark Lambert, the ex-president of a company that transported nuclear matter to the United States.

Lambert was indicted in January 2018 for allegedly paying bribes to Russians in order to win the business. Social media and some conservative websites incorrectly said Lambert's indictment was tied to an FBI probe into the sale of Uranium One, a charge even echoed by conservative news publications. But the FBI was not looking at Uranium One, it was actually investigating kickback schemes among U.S.-based representatives of Russian energy firms.

In the jury selection documents for Lambert's trial, made public Monday, Justice Department prosecutors proposed two subsections (V and VII) that each fall under the heading, "Unrelated Conspiracy Theories."

"Although this is a case involving an alleged criminal conspiracy with a Russian official, this case has nothing at all to do with the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or alleged collusion between the Donald Trump Presidential Campaign and Russia, or alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections. I repeat: that investigation has nothing at all to do with this case," reads one item in the lengthy jury instruction proposed by attorneys working for Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. He is a former deputy to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who oversaw Mueller's probe.

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